If you're writing a white paper, issue brief, article, analysis, or report, what's the best way to conclude that document?

In my work as a writing coach, I've seen many clients struggle with writing conclusions. Usually, this struggle happens because people are missing the point about what a conclusion is actually supposed to do. Once you understand this, good conclusions practically write themselves.

Here's the secret to writing effective conclusions...

An effective conclusion PROPELS READERS TO ACTION that furthers your goals.

In the working world, people rarely write for the sheer joy of writing. Rather, they hope that their document will have an effect in the world—such as making their products, services or company look good; helping people understand or do something well; and raising awareness of an issue.

In short, if you think about your work-related writing not as a static product but as a kinetic process that your readers experience, your document can make things happen!

For you to make things happen, people must read your document and then do something with your information. For instance, they might use your document in making decisions, forming opinions or influencing the opinions and decisions of others. They may follow your instructions to complete a task or assess a situation or option. They may alter their priorities. They may recognize new opportunities, problems or risks. And so on.

The “and then do something” part is where your document's conclusion comes in. Your conclusion should move readers from information to action.

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Amy Gahran is an editorial consultant, journalist and writing trainer/coach based in Boulder, Colorado. She helps people and organizations communicate effectively online and in print. For more info, see gahran.com. She also publishes the CONTENTIOUS blog, which offers news and musings on how we communicate in the online age.